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A Boy's Recollections 


Red Shirt Campaign 

Of 1 876 


In South Carolina 
Paper Read Before the Kosmos Club 

of Columbia, S. C. 



January 21, 1911 

Columbia, S. C. 





A Boy's Recollections 


Of 1 876 Jl 

In South Carolina 

Paper Read Before the Kosmos Club 
of Columbia, S. C. 



January 21, 1911 

Columbia, 5, C. 



• * m a 
• • •■ 
■ • * . . 

Extract From the Minut 


Kosmos Club, January 21, 101L 
"The paper of the evening was by Mr, W W Ball and 
was entitled 'A Boy's Recollections of the Red Shirt Cam- 
paign (of 1876). It was voted by all present to be one of 
the best ever read before the Club. The reading of the 
paper was followed by the usual discussion, after which it 
was resolved, on motion of Professor Snowden, that Mr 
liall be requested to put his paper into shape for publication 
by the Club." * * * 


My excuse for ihis itkmbllhg s^e'tch is that I have not had 
time to prepare a paper requiring .research. I must also 
apologize i'fori '$& Very fpefrsonap phaSaofejJ though I believe 
that the Club 'will perceive that' from its nature it could 
scarcely be other than personal. I purpose in the paper to 
describe, in some faint way, the picturesque side of one of 
the notable episodes in the history of the State, in the hope 
that something may be contributed to an understanding of it. 

Among my earliest recollections was an afternoon in the 
year 1873 or 1874, when, as night was coming on, my father 
(B. W. Ball), did not come home at the usual time — sun- 
down—and my mother, then a woman of 25 or 26, was in 
dread lest he had been arrested and flung in jail at the village 
of Laurens, a mile and a half distant, by the "Radicals." I 
shared in the dread. My father was a lawyer, but we were 
living on my maternal grandmother's plantation, which lay 
just north of the village, and my father was planting it with 
my grandmother, practicing his profession in the village at 
the same time. 

In October, 1870, on the morning following the general 
election, "the Riot" (people of Laurens to this day speak 
of it as "the Riot") had occurred. That affair would make 
a long story in itself. It must suffice here to say that it 
began on the court house square with the firing of a pistol, 
probably by design, possibly by accident. The negroes fled 
to the armory of the negro militia company, an old frame 
building called "Tinpot Alley," on the south side of the 
square. White men attacked the building, a negro showed 
his head on a balcony, a bullet fired from the square dropped 
him to the ground below. The hundreds of negroes deserted 
the building in panic and one or two were shot down 
in the village as they ran. Volney Powell, a handsome 
young carpetbagger from Ohio, who had been elected Pro- 
bate Judge the day before, and Bill Riley, a negro politician, 
set out for Newberry in the direction taken by a company of 

United States regulars, who had marched away at 4 o'clock 
L TT'- g "V' 116 bdief that dm &* <> f » n outbreak had 
W. T? lr ° b3 .? Ct WaS t0 h ™* the soldi ^ back to 
«TS / ™ ^^.W»f« they were overtaken 
and Med. Meanwhile, the;r^t,m ^e village had been 
turned into a negro chase, which covered practically the 

Sfi\ C TS ^Uk^W^W «*:<% and night, 
he first shot havorfg beeirfiM ab<*Lll o^ck'in, the morn- 
ing. At the time, my father was engaged in a trial in the 
court house. When the trouble begSfhe rushed out a,d 

took command of the white men, forming them into some 
ort of miht , ry der< ffis eff Qrts ^ ^ regtore 

2 i^r^l 111 ' 11 aVe Said Since his death thafc «« slaughter 

would have been much greater but for his conduct. One of 

he men who behaved with great gallantry that day was 

iJ If ™ ' ^ UnCle by marria ^ of one of our mem- 
bers, Mr. Hoyt While the negroes were in "Tinpot" wlh 
their guns, and before they stampeded, Beard ran forward 
with an axe and was battering down the door of the armory 
when the negroes stampeded. He was without protection if 
the negroes had chosen to fire from the windows. He was a 
man or desperate courage. 

On the night of the riot 2,000 or more men congregated 
m Laurens coming from Union, Abbeville, Spartanburg, 
Newberry, Greenville and all the nearby counties, as well 
as from the length and breadth of Laurens. B v every high- 
way approaching the village they could be heard riding and 
yelling all the night long. Within foe minutes after the 
flight from the armory, not a negro or white Radical was 
to be seen anywhere, and it was two or three days before 
th^j began to steal out of the woods and swamps. Besides 
the one white man, eleven or twelve negroes were killed 
during the day and night at widely separated places in the 
county. Wade Perrin, a negro who had been elected to the 
Legislature the day before, was killed beyond the countv 
line, in Newberry, I think. 

I mention this affair in some detail (of course I do not 
remember it, as I was under two years old), because from 
that time the negroes in Laurens behaved themselves with 

seemliness, although their party continued in control until 
1876. The cause of the riot was the intolerable political 
condition. Negroes, organized in militia and egged on by 
incendiary speakers, white and black, and with the presence 
of a Federal garrison to embolden them, had made' life unen- 
durable to the whites. Whether the firing of the pistol that 
started the fighting was by design or not, I do not know, but 
probably it was by design— some desperate white men hav- 
ing resolved to precipitate the inevitable conflict. None of 
the leading white men were privy to this design, if it existed. 
Anyway, the effect was salutary and lasting; in fact, it is 
still lasting. 

A few days later fifteen or twenty arrests of old men and 
youths, non-combatants most of them, were made by the 
Federal authorities, and the prisoners were brought to 
Columbia* One of them was the late Major John A. Leland, 
president of a girls' college in Laurens, who has told of the 
affair in a little book, "A Yoice From South Carolina.'' 
The active men — my father among them— disappeared and 
avoided arrest, visiting their friends in remote rural dis- 
tricts and going afishing. A few who were suspected of 
complicity in one or another of the homicides were driven 
from the State and compelled to absent themselves for sev- 
eral years. 

In some of these years my father was writing the editorial 
articles for the Lauremville Herald, and they were said to 
be of no very temperate character. The editorial policy was 
to denounce and ridicule the "Radicals" (no white person 
used the word "Republican" in those days), and so to hold 
the white men together and prevent the weak-kneed from 
going over to the enemy. 

In 1875, when we had moved to the village, I went to the 
postofllce for the mail late one afternoon, and while at the 
"delivery" window I saw leaning against a tree not far away 
a black frock-coated, saturnine looking old fellow. Sud- 
denly it dawned on me that he was Jake Collins (I use a 
nctictious name) and I scudded home as though a thousand 
devils were behind me. I was then six years old, and this 
man, the notorious white Radical leader of the county, was 

identical with my notion of the persons who fell victims to 

the prowess of "Jack the Giant Killer," and I S a 

Jack the Giant Killer." a 

That same summer the man was assassinated at the dawn 

buggy. Whether the motive of the assassination was Doliti 
heard that Collins was dead. There were those who said 

been on tt fi v "■? ****** *** and ^ ^d not 

nh L f ng lme m the war - He ha * inning in 

abundance and was dangerous only when not vi»oJuZ 
opposed He would have counted for nothing JSSS 
storm that swept the Eadicals out of existence fhe fe^t ~ 
Before the war he traded in negroes, so slavery tra ned a 
tormentor for the sons and daughters of the slaveholders 
In 1876 Laurens village, or perhaps it had not then shed 

^i^"^* ^ a **^ of abtt 800 
of whom 300 were negroes. By the State census of 1S75 the 
negro voting majority in the county was about 600, and the 
white vote was probably around 2,000. The one railroad 
had been abandoned after the war and restored dS 
year. In the late fall trains from Newberrv were Spptg 
at a point about four miles east of the village 

In December 1875, the State Central Committee of the 
Democratic party met and arranged for the reorganization 
of the party m the State by counties. My father was 

fSS?^* r T gaT f e LaUrens Count ^ In tte Ml of 
1875 he had purchased a large and handsome brick residence 
in the incorporate limits of the town but situated three- 
quarters of a mile from the public square, and surrounded 
by native forest, so that it was completely isolated in the 
centre of a tract of more than a hundred acres, which 
included a small farm under cultivation. The place had 
been improved by the late Col. John D. Williams, one of 
the wealthy slaveholders of the up-country, and among the 

outhouses was the best barn in the county, with stalls for 
perhaps twenty horses. 

The first impression of the year 1876 that remains with 
me is that we began to have more company than usual at 
our house. It had always been the habit of my father to 
bring home his country friends and clients to spend the 
night occasionally, but as spring came there were one or 
two farmers at the house two or three times a week. These, 
as I now know, were influential men in their neighborhoods,' 
and, almost without exception, middle-aged and Confederate 
veterans. Politics was talked constantly, but of what was 
said I remember nothing. Then frequently and more 
frequently— sometimes more than once in the same week— 
my father would go out into the country to address Demo- 
cratic clubs. I recall dimly going to one place with him— 
Scuffletown— where he and others spoke to 75 or 100, per- 
haps 200 men, in a country store. I recollect nothing of the 
early days of the campaign, and nothing of the May State 
Convention, but when the August Convention was held that 
nominated General Hampton, events began to stamp them- 
selves on my mind. Perhaps my father's nomination for 
Circuit Solicitor excited my immediate interest in the cam- 
paign, for it then had, more than ever, a personal meaning 
to me and my mother, grandmother and three aunts who 
lived at our house. It is of some significance to recall now 
that this nomination was obtained over three influential 
lawyers in the judicial convention held in Columbia at the 
same time that the State Convention was held, because it 
shows that the nominations were not regarded as empty 
honors, and that the Democrats at that early stage were not 
only resolved, but expecting to win, About the same time, 
perhaps a few days before the State Convention, the County 
Convention named candidates for the legislative and other 
offices, and the contests for the nominations were somewhat 
heated. All of the nominees, I think, were Confederate 

From the time of the State Convention the hard riding 
began in Laurens. Practically every man went armed. 
Pistol carrying was a necessity in those days, and it should 



be observed that the habit was forced upon the people in 
the period of Reconstruction. When insolent negroes were 
marching the streets armed, and white scalawags were 
inflaming them with incendiary harangues, common pru- 
dence required that even the law-abiding and sober white 
men be prepared at all times to defend themselves and their 
families. These years doubtless made popular the evil cus- 
tom of carrying pistols, which so many of the people have 
not abandoned, and which is still a prolific source of crime. 

Exactly when the red shirt made its appearance in Lau- 
rens I do not know, but from August until after the election 
in November companies and squadrons of men were every 
two or three days coming into the village. Every man and 
youth, it seems to me now, must have been on horseback, 
galloping day and night. Nearly every night our house 
was more or less crowded with visitors from all parts of 
the county. A Bed Shirt Club from Cross Hill Township 
where my father was born and reared, was named in his 
honor, and a large proportion of its members, some of them 
prominent and others poor men, were connected with him by 
blood or marriage. Squadrons of these men at any hour of 
the day and night were in the habit of riding to the house, 
stabling their horses and mules and spending the night. 

Meantime the fear was not absent, at least from the 
women, that there would be trouble with the "Rads," and 
the news of a conflict would have startled, without surpris- 
ing, anyone. One day about noon, when I was playing in 
the backyard with a small cousin, and my mother and her 
sisters were in the kitchen, the "rebel yell" rang out in the 
woods near our front gate* From the noise it seemed to 
me that it came from a thousand throats, and I was sure 
that at last the "Rads" were upon us and that massacre was 
imminent. I ran frightened to the house and found my 
mother and the family terrified too, but, almost before the 
echo of the yell had died, it broke into "Three cheers for 
Mrs. Ball and the baby! 1 ', (my sister was about eight or 
nine months old) and we were all happy again. The yell 
had come from a party of about fifteen of the Cross Hill 
red shirts who had come over to the house for dinner. 

I relate these incidents with the object of impressing the 
plan of campaign. The county was perfectly organized. 
The essence of the plan was to make and maintain until the 
election should pass a continuing demonstration that would 
over-awe the Radicals without at any time doing them 
actual violence, unless actually necessary. So there was the 
everlasting thud of horses' hoofs and wild yelling on all the 
highways and in every corner of the county. The echoes 
seemed never to die, and they were punctuated, too, with 
pistol shots, at times, fired in the empty air. 

Except for the shadow of interference by Federal bay- 
onets, the winning of a victory, even in a county with a 
negro majority, would have presented no difficulties. Gen- 
eral Hampton knew, and all his trusted leaders knew, that 
the problem was to hold up to the gaze and din into the 
ears of the negroes the picture and sound and menace of 
war against them, without committing any overt acts of 
war Whenever the news would come of riot and bloodshed 
in another part of the State my father and his lieutenants 
talked gravely of the situation, and yet when the Radicals 
held meetings in Laurens the red shirts were there and there 
by orders, singing to the tune of "John Brown's Body," as 
they galloped into the very presence of the Radical speakers, 
"We'll hang Dan Chamberlain to a sour apple tree as we go 
marching home." Often they substituted the names of other 
prominent Radicals who were on hand to speak. To the 
cniving and badgering of the Radical speakers, there was no 
limit, and yet there was always restraint. Nobody was to 
be hurt and everybody was to be able to say that the peace 
had not been broken. 

In Laurens County no rioting occurred during the cam- 
paign. Some negroes were killed, but I do not know that 
there was a single homicide directly political in its origin. 
There were scores of rowdy and desperate young men, and 
the unremitting task of the older men was to prevent these 
from doing crimes that would provide a pretext for the 
declaration of martial law. In the village were at least sis 
or eight barrooms, open day and night, cotton was bringing 
15 or 20 cents a pound, and the people had not learned to 


save. Laurens County had two kinds of while niNirimi llie 

ruffians, or desperadoes mark, being II xco]i(Ioiin of 

whom the L. brothers, B. and T., were exnmploH of ■ Kind. 

They were men of good extraction, their pumilH having 
been well-to-do slaveholders, and they were such ohnr&Otori 
as are described in stories of the Far West. It. L., whor 
drinking, was dangerous to whites as well as to blnolci. [*Il 
was absolutely fearless and desperate, and scarcely burdened 

with a sense of responsibility, though a man of into] U go 

I do not know that any homicide was ever traced to llthov 
brother, but most homicides were not traced in [\mw limoH| 
and they were usually on hand where there wiih trouble, 
and were not unready to begin it anywhere. Yel men of 
their class were not without some fine instincts, imhI I do nol 
think that they would have shot a negro in cold bloodi One 
afternoon B. L. rode his horse up a flight of stalrri to tllfl 
second story of a brick building into the office of the LftU 
rensvtlle Herald, a deed typical of the Western OOWboyi 
One of the brothers afterwards went to the Far Woi I 
Montana or one of the Dakotas — and "died willi hil bootl 
on" as a sheriff or deputy sheriff. 

There was another kind of ruffian of whom I reeidl 
specimen. He was of humble origin, a brutal follow, whOj 
in the course of two years or less time, shot and lulled lix or 

seven negroes with little or no provocation. Me vvnuKI i 

a negro in the road and shoot him without jippiinMit online, 
None of these murders was political. Thin niim Ihmllv 

fled the State, remained in seclusion five <>r hIm \< d 

shortly afterwards died. He was never died for 1 1 1 w 

crimes. He had abundant courage of n low nrdt'l , I 

instinctive shrewdness enough not to cngftgci often With 
white antagonists. The L. boys and other* id' I Ink i|i flip 
tion were desperadoes, but quite as line in llioll WltJ II 111! 
outlaws of romance. 

Keturning to the campaign, there were nt oui' llOtl 

night twenty-three young countrymen, liwl Wilt 1 ) I 

twenty of them were drunk. They did mil ^v\ (lie will I i 
at the house. My father was careful Ihul nnlji I he Ntllltl Rlt<1 
sober men had access to the decanier id I m, Iml Dm | lllll 


loaded up in the village. One poor devil literally had to be 
carried from the supper table. All night long these young 
fellows sang and shouted in the upper floors of the house. 
I mention the incident to show that in such times respectable 
people were not punctilious about their guests, and these 
]ads, every one of them, were welcome drunk or sober. 

So the galloping and riding and shooting went on, A 
brass band was organized for the campaign, and it is said 
to have learned to play with some success a single tune — 
possibly with less success, three or four. It went to the 
meetings everywhere in the county, and was quite as useful 
in interrupting the speeches of Eadicals at the right time 
as in inspiring Democratic enthusiasm. Some of its mem- 
bers were couriers as well as musicians, for the courier corps 
was a most important agency of the campaign. The sum- 
moning of Red Shirts over an area of TOO square miles and 
sometimes from neighboring counties, when there were no 
telephones or telegraph lines, called for lads not strangers 
to the saddle. 

Finally the day of the "Hampton meeting" approached. 
By this time I had acquired a red shirt which my grand- 
mother made for me, and of which I was immensely proud, 
save that the material of it was red calico instead of the 
regulation red flannel. The night before the meeting my 
grandmother carried me and a cousin to a friend's house on 
the other side of the village to see the campaign cavalcade 
come in from Union court house. The speakers and their 
escort were to arrive in the afternoon, but, stopping at 
various points on the way to address small crowds of Demo- 
crats, they did not arrive until far in the night, so we did not 
see them. We did see, though, the Greenville City company, 
which had ridden thirty-eight miles for the meeting. I 
remember that they were the first company of even semi- 
military men that I had ever seen, except "Yankees," in fact, 
until then I rather supposed the words "Yankee" and "sol- 
dier" synonymous. The company was commanded by Capt. 
V. E. (Bunch) McBee, later a prominent railroad man, and 
Dr. W. L. Mauldin, afterwards Lieutenant-Governor, and 
now Senator from Greenville County, was one of its officers. 


General Hampton and the campaign party were mfll CoUl 
miles from Laurens by the local lied Hhirl.H mid escorted 
into the village. 

The sun rose next morning on such a day in the villus of 
Laurens as was never known before and lias not been I6en 
since. Long before daylight every road leading Into the 
town was crowded with buggies, wagons and men on lioi'BQ 
back. Every vehicle and every horse and mule in thfl OOUnty, 
and hundreds in the adjoining counties must have been 
called into service. Everybody was cheering and shouting. 
I was in a carriage with some of the women of my family, 
having, much to my sorrow, been refused the privi 
lege, on account of my youth, of riding in the Red Shirt 

About 10 o'clock the procession formed on the public 
square and streets radiating from it. I had not divan in], 
until then, that there were so many men in the world or half 
so many horses and mules. Company after company, some 
of them stretching hundreds of yards, swept across thn 
square, every man yelling and cheering. Most of the com- 
panies — I suppose there must have been twenty of them — 
were uniformed in red shirts, but the shirts were not all 
alike. The cloth was red flannel, and in many instances it 
was elaborately trimmed with blue, and sometimes with 
yellow. Here and there was a marshal with plumed lint rind 
clanking sword, dashing from place to place and evidently 
feeling his importance immensely. In one or two cusps com- 
panies did not wear the red shirts, and T remember par 
ticularly seeing a company approaching a quarter <>f u milo 
down the street which seemed to be wearing white, Winn 
they came nearer it was revealed that they had Impro^ lied 

a uniform by shucking their coats and vests and C Ing In 

their shirt, sleeves. 

At least one other band than the Laurens organliatton 
that could play a single tune had been imported for thd 
occasion, and the martial music was abundant. Aflrr mi 
hour the procession moved towards a fores! on (lie ndllthoi " 
side of the town, where the meeting was to be held. II Wfll 
fully a mile in length, and the men rode in dole ordttl TltO 


October day was dry, and the clouds of dust were thick to 
suffocation, but the procession was a glorious spectacle; at 
any rate, no military parade that I have seen since was so 
splendidly impressive to me, and I think I have seen as 
many as 30,000 soldiers at once passing under review. No 
30,000 soldiers ever cheered more vociferously or incessantly. 
In many companies there were a few red shirted negroes, 
and they were the objects of a great deal of interest. It 
was estimated at the time that 2,300 mounted men were in 
line, but this was perhaps a slight exaggeration, as there 
were not more than that number of white voters in the 
county. However, hundreds of lads not of age wore red 
shirts and rode, and there were some hundreds of men, too, 
from other counties. The assemblage at the meeting was 
estimated at 5,000 and included some hundreds of women. 

The speaker's stand was decorated lavishly with flowers 
and there were rough slab seats in front of it. My father, 
as county chairman, presided and introduced the speakers, 
and he took me on the stand with him, to my boundless 
delight. Immediately in front of the stand some of the 
seats had been set apart for negroes. 

I remember General Hampton's speaking, but my atten- 
tion was not attracted by his calm and easy manner of 
address. It did not interest a small boy. In fact, the only 
speech that I recall was that of Col, D, Wyatt Aiken, the 
candidate for Congress, who told numerous anecdotes, one 
of which was about Eepublican puppies that were blind and 
Democratic puppies which "had their eyes open." I also 
remember that Col. W. D. Simpson, a Laurens man, the can- 
didate for Lieutenant-Governor and the most eloquent 
orator of the party, spoke and that at times his voice broke, 
evidently from over-straining at the previous meetings. 

The speaking, though, was a minor incident of the day, 
much as to hear it was the ostensible object of the gathering. 
The demonstration of the- man on horseback, designed to 
impress the negro mind, was the really important feature. 
General Hampton, Colonel Aiken and others appealed to 
the negro voters, but I doubt if the appeals were effective. 

The Red Shirts and the terrible "rebel yells" were 

the arguments that the Radicals understood. 

Mr. John S. Reynolds, in his "Reconstruction in South 
Carolina," tells how the cry "Hurrah for Hampton" 
resounded through South Carolina. To my ears the cry of 
"Hurrah" has ever seemed unnatural and jarring when used 
with any other name than "Hampton" since those days. 

At our breakfast table nest morning Capt. "Bunch" 
McBee related that when he rode to the house at midnight 
with half a dozen other guests of ours, he called "Mjulison 
Allen," a negro man, an ex-slave of the family, to put their 
horses in the stalls. Now "Mad" was the owner of a mule 
named "Mike," distinguished for its lively heels. "Mad," 
Captain McBee said, "was reluctant to enter the stable. 
'Why don't you go on and put up these horses?' said McBee. 
'Boss, I'se scared of that mule of mine,' replied Madison, 
'he'll kick. 5 

"'Whoever heard of a mule that would kick the nigger 
that owns him? Go on and put up the horses,' said McBee. 

"Mad still hesitated. 

" 'Go on in with the horses, you black rascal I' said McBee, 
growing impatient, 'you know the mule won't kick his 

"'Lordy, boss,* responded Mad, 'you don't know nofhuf 
about dat mule, dat mule would kick anybody — dat mule 
would kick Hampton.'" 

The story went the rounds of the campaign thereafter, 
and it aptly illustrated the idolatrous regard in Which Gen 
oral Hampton had come to be held. It was the irony of 
fate that within less than two years another irreverent mulfe'l 
heels cost General Hampton a leg and almost his li fc. 

There was no relaxation of enthusiasm in Laurens iiflrr 
the great Hampton day. The Red Shirts incessantly POdfl 
in small and large bodies. Governor Chamberlain oaiM to 
Laurens and spoke, and the Red Shirts made his day warm 
for him, but they did not hurt him. I have heard my father 
pa yj by the way, that whatever might be said to Chamber 
Iain's discredit, cowardice was not his weakness, lie win 
always cool and courageous under trying ehvimishinnvi. 


In respect to the quality of courage, there was a young 
South Carolinian named McGill Fleming, the incumbent 
Solicitor of the Seventh Circuit and the candidate for 
re-election against my father. He was addicted to whiskey 
and other vices that had dragged him low, but he was a 
thoroughbred and a man of fine talent. On account of 
my father's candidacy the feeling against him was espe- 
cially intense in Laurens, One night during the campaign 
when Fleming was at a hotel in Laurens, a gang of a dozen 
or more Red Shirts, country boys, surrounded him and 
denounced him, sang ribald songs in his face and insulted 
him in every way they could devise. Fleming, so I heard 
at the time from a cousin of ours, himself a rather reckless 
and dangerous man, who saw the affair, cursed his persecu- 
tors and challenged them to fight him — one at a time. It 
was said that his courage saved him, though the Red Shirts 
probably knew better than to hurt him. It would have been 
imprudent. Degraded as the brilliant young scalawag was, 
his breeding asserted itself and he could not be daunted. Of 
course, this sort of conduct from the young Red Shirts was 
without the approbation and contrary to the orders of my 
father and others in charge of the campaign, but it could 
not altogether be prevented. The wonder is that the direc- 
tors of the campaign succeeded in restraining the boys at all. 

Although diligent and persevering efforts were made to 
convert negroes to the Hampton standard, they met with 
indifferent success. The few dozen or hundred that voted 
the Democratic ticket in Laurens were, as a rule, trifling, 
lazy, and careless fellows, who lived by tips from their white 
friends rather than by labor. With rare exceptions, the bet- 
ter as well as the more intelligent negroes remained stead- 
fast Republicans. Many of them refrained from voting, but 
they did not become Democrats. The persuasive method was 
not effective with them. 

I do not think that in the election of 1876 frauds were 
numerous in Laurens, but undoubtedly there was intimida- 
tion. I personally heard of but one case of bribery. A gang 
of half a dozen negroes were engaged in boring a well at our 
house when election day approached. On the day preceding 



my mother offered each and all of them who would report 
at the house before 7 o'clock, the hour of opening the polls, 
and remain until after the polls closed, without doing any 
work, unless they wished, $5.00 in gold. The virtue of :iil 
the members of the gang was impregnable except that of one 
Gil Garlington, and the money alone did not corrupt him. 
"If," said Gil, after pondering the offer, "the missus will 
give me, besides the $5.00, all the sweet 'tater custards I can 
eat tomorrow, I'll come." The amendment was accepted. 
Gil was faithful to his bargain, got the gold piece and the 
custards. While I have never been disposed to criticise the 
ethical quality of my mother's assault on the purity of a 
South Carolina election, I have entertained some doubts of 
the wisdom of the investment. I fancy that Gil sold his 
abstention from political activity in 1S7G at a higher price 
than any other Radical in the county received. 

Numbers of negroes were told that if they voted the 
Radical ticket they would need other homes and employ- 
ment, but this, I think, had little effect upon them. The 
American negro takes no thought of the morrow, and hia 
faith that pasturage will last is childlike and unshakable. 
The negroes, thousands of them, did not vote, and there was 
a reason. The Red Shirt riders was the reason — not 
anxiety as to the wherewithal they should be fed and clothed. 
True, the endeavor of the whites to persuade and convince 
the negroes of the wisdom of voting the Democratic ticket 
was diligent and persevering, but it was unavailing to an 
extent that materially affected results. 

On the night before election day hundreds of negroes were 
assembled by their leaders in the coxirt room of the county 
court house and there they were kept throughout the night. 
The next morning early they were marched down stairs to 
the polling place, which was at a window of one of the 
lower floor court house offices. The voter approached the 
window from the court house square and deposited his ballot 
in the box placed on the low window sill. The negroes sur- 
rounded, or attempted to surround, the polling place, and 
there was a great crowd of them. There were also many 
white men, and a fair sprinkling of them had Winchester 

repeating rifles in their hands, while others had them con- 
veniently placed in stores nearby. On a hill 500 yards away, 
and not in sight, a company of United States regulars were 
in camp. They had been sent to Laurens, as they were sent 
to other towns where the contest was expected to be close. 
The presence of these soldiers was, of course, the grave 
factor in the problem to the Democrats. To avoid a collision 
with them and at the same time to carry the election, pre- 
sented a nice puzzle for solution. As events indicated, it is 
likely that the officers in command of the troops were not 
without a correct understanding of a situation delicate to 
them as well as to the Democrats. At any rate, their 
behavior was eminently discreet. 

In the early hours as the negroes crowded about the poll- 
ing place the white men jeered and nagged them. In a little 
while two stalwart and well armed young farmers, of no 
especial reputation as peacekeepers (though both are now 
serious-minded and deeply religious men, and have been for 
years), became engaged in a lively fight. There were loud 
words and drawn weapons, and friends took sides, so that a 
bloody affray seemed imminent. The fight was a ruse. The 
two men were sworn friends, and are to this day. It was, 
in a later day slang, a "frame-up" designed to create a diver- 
sion, and it served its purpose. The neighborhood became 
uninviting to some of the negroes. By the time peace had 
been restored a squad of about twenty-five mounted Red 
Shirts galloped yelling onto the square, coming from some 
remote part of the county. As they rode they fired pistols in 
the air — always in the air — and in a few minutes the^y were 
gone, riding madly for some other voting precinct. They 
did no one the slightest injury. With all their wild cheer- 
ing they were bent on peace. Fifteen minutes or half an 
hour later another company from another direction rode 
into the village in a sweeping gallop, firing their pistols in 
the same way, and in a few minutes they, too, were gone, 
with a clatter of hoofs and bursts of "Hurrah for Hampton !" 
These parties continued to arrive at intervals during the day, 
and in perhaps two hours the Radical party had dispersed 
and scarcely one of its colored members was to be seen. That 


was the simple process by which the election was carried in 
Laurens County, and it cost no lives and no blood. 

There were deputy United States marshals in Laurens too, 
and early in the morning two or three of them appeared at 
the polling place. They were quietly buttonholed by a few 
Democrats who, with the necessary though quiet emphasis, 
told them that they must leave the court house square and 
not be visible again that day. They obeyed. One of their 
interviewers was, I have been told, the "B, L." whom I have 
heretofore mentioned, and others were men of his type. The 
talk with these marshals was a business talk, and contained 
not the slightest ingredient of bluff. Had one of the officers 
been willing to sacrifice his life the course of events might 
have been changed. 

There was not the slightest purpose on the part of the 
Democrats to do any man bodily harm ; that was what they 
were trying to avoid, and the only danger was that some 
reckless youth or half drunken man would disobey orders. 
That would have seriously upset plans. Yet in certain emer- 
gencies and contingencies real fighting was contemplated as 
a last resort. A brother of my mother, who was barely of 
age in 1876, told me recently that early on the morning of 
the election my father called him aside and told him pri- 
vately that the Federal soldiers in town were not to be dis- 
turbed, they were to be left severely alone — "unless they 
interfered. If they come over here from their barracks and 
hurt any of our people," said the county chairman to his 
young brother-in-law, "we are going to kill them." That 
desperate resolution, I have no doubt, had been maturely 
considered and arrived at by the leaders, and I suppose thai- 
similar procedure had been agreed upon everywhere in the 
State. It was doubtless part of the general plan. The sol 
diers occupied themselves with their own devices throughout 
the day and came no nearer to the polling place. I have no 
doubt, though I do not know it, that the method of fighting 
them had been planned with military precision and that n 
sufficient number of tried men had been entrusted with the 
execution of the project, if occasion arose, to overwhelm him I 
slaughter practically the whole company. T repeat (hat my 


impression is that this was to be the resort everywhere in 
the State if the necessity for it appeared, but it is to be borne 
always in mind that the plans were so made that only pru- 
dent, cautious and dependable men of experience were 
informed of it. The young man who told me of my father's 
conversation would not have been taken into the latter 's 
confidence except that he was a member of his family. The 
young bloods of the land would have put the fat in the fire. 

The Democrats carried Laurens County by more than 
1,100 majority, and it will be remembered that it was the 
refusal of the State Board of Canvassers to issue certificates 
of election to the Democratic candidates for the House of 
Representatives from Laurens and Edgefield that caused 
the dual Houses, under rival speakers, General W. H. Wal- 
lace and E. W. M. Mackey, and the dual government lasting 
in Columbia until President Hayes withdrew the troops 
from the State House in April, 1877, 

For two or three days, perhaps longer, reports of the 
results of the election were conflicting and the tension was 
great, but at last it seemed certain that the Democrats had 
won— the contest in Columbia not then being foreseen — and 
naturally there was wild rejoicing. Anvils were loaded with 
powder and iired, and there was a great torch-light proces- 
sion, in which hundreds of Red Shirts participated. About 
S o'clock on the evening that the news of the victory was 
confirmed, we heard from our house a band playing and 
cheering in Main street, and a little later we knew that the 
townspeople were serenading Colonel Simpson, who had 
been elected Lieutenant-Governor. His house was about half 
a mile distant from ours, and a family consultation was 
immediately held as to ways and means of entertaining the 
boys if they should come to serenade my father. It hap- 
pened that the larder was stocked with eggs that had been 
brought by a member of the family from the mountains in 
Greenville County where she had been spending a part of 
the summer, so an egg-nog was determined upon. In a few 
minutes the crowd was heard moving towards our house, 
and such an egg-beating as then took place was probably 
never equalled in the county. My father was, of course, 


called on for a speech, and he was compelled to continue 
speaking, messages being slyly sent to him, until the nog 
was ready, lest the crowd disperse prematurely. I distinctly 
recall that seven dozen eggs— less three — went into the nog, 
including a special nog for one young man who was unwill- 
ing to have whiskey in his, but would take a glass flavored 
with vanilla. Presumably that young man was the original 
Laurens prohibitionist- The whiskey dispensaries have been 
banished from the county by Democratic votes in recent 

Having tried to draw a picture, not entirely colorless, of 
this stirring period in the State's history, there are some 
conclusions, I think, that follow from it if the picture is 
true. I do not believe that General Hampton understood 
the nature of the campaign which he successfully led and 
which no other living man could have led to victory. Gen- 
eral Hampton was a sincere man, and was convinced that 
the negroes could be persuaded to vote for him. His idea 
was that conciliatory approaches could restore the old-time 
feeling between former slave and master, and I suspect that 
he believed throughout his life that the negro largely con- 
tributed to the election of his ticket. As I have already 
intimated, the main scheme of the campaign was a huge 
bluff. The negroes were to be impressed by a terrific dis- 
play of force, and yet no such force was to be exerted as 
would furnish the Grant administration with pretext to 
employ coercive measures. As I have also intimated, the 
bluffing would have ceased in a last dire emergency, and the 
white people would have fought, had they been driven to it, 
rather than yield. There was no other man in the State 
except Wade Hampton, in whose courage, judgment and 
disinterestedness the people had entire confidence. Goaded 
1o madness as they had been, they could have been restrained 
from the folly of violence by no other leader. They obeyed 
him because the feeling for him was a fervent and yet some- 
what far off adoration. General Hampton was never so 
close to the masses of the people as were some of his lieu- 
tenants, General Butler, for example, and yet, for that very 
reason, his hold on them in a time of extreme stress was the 


stronger. Consequently, in after years when the need for a 
man of General Hampton's unrivalled qualities was not felt, 
his services were for the moment, with a fickleness charac- 
teristic of a people whose passions are easily aroused, 
rejected. My father often expressed to me the opinion that 
General Hampton's military prowess and the inflexible firm- 
ness of his character were so well known throughout the 
country that when he said that he would be Governor, at the 
time Chamberlain was disputing his election, President 
Grant, President Hayes and their advisers knew that to 
resist was to precipitate war, and that the declaration of no 
other South Carolinian would have so impressed them. 

The white Democrats of South Carolina in 1876 were com- 
posed of two classes — Confederate veterans and the genera- 
tion of young men who were born too late to serve in the 
War Between the States. The veterans were in the prime 
of life and vigor, A man who was 25 in 1861 was 41 in 
1876. These men were probably the most experienced and 
effective body of veteran soldiers in the world. They had 
known war in its every phase and aspect. They had learned 
in its hard school how to obey orders, and they were familiar 
with all the ways of campaigning. They were resourceful, 
alert and self-contained, capable of handling, under direc- 
tion of their old officers, the most delicate situations not only 
with consummate courage, but with consummate prudence. 
They could lead charges when it was wise to charge, and 
they could lie still and wait when to wait was the word. 

Of the young men, on the other hand, there was scarcely 
one in whose breast did not lurk a vague feeling that the 
fates had cheated him out of his own, in that he had not had 
the opportunity to be a soldier, and a condition of affairs 
that had many points in common with a state of war was 
an extreme stimulus to their patriotism and enthusiasm. 
The chance even in some small way to prove' their mettle to 
their fathers and brothers was not to be lost, so they were 
easily mustered and organized for the peculiar and extra- 
ordinary political campaign required to redeem the com- 
monwealth. In the rarest instances was any act of reckless- 


ness or violence done by an old soldier, and, but for these 
old soldiers, the youths would have been uncontrollable. 

General Hampton's lieutenants were, almost without 
exception, ex-officers of the Confederate armies, and they 
were educated men of the highest order of intelligence. 
They were in the closest sympathy and association with the 
veterans of their former commands, and no other group of 
men could have managed the kind of campaign that the 
times demanded— the sustained demonstration of force for 
aix months with the steady refraining from actual violence. 
When one thinks of the incomparable superiority in morale 
of the white men of 1876 over the poor negroes and few 
degraded whites who flocked with them, the fight that they 
made seems child's play, but when it is remembered that it 
was won in the face of Federal bayonets under the orders 
of a government that crushed the South only eleven years 
before, it takes on another and quite different character. 

As I have said, there were in Laurens and elsewhere in the 
State some exhibitions of ruffianism and some murders done 
in 1876, but these were seldom directly connected with pol- 
itics. At the same time they had a marked influence, anil 
the occasional ugly proof that white men could shoot 
straight and would shoot quickly, contributed to the demor- 
alizing of the negro party. While crimes are not to be 
extenuated, it is none the less a fact that in some measure 
we were beneficiaries of those done in a period that was akin 
to a state of war. 

Notwithstanding this, nothing eould be more unfair I 
South Carolina than the placing of exaggerated stress I 
frauds and intimidation done by the white people, Indei 
I doubt if the frauds in Laurens County or in most of 111 
counties were considerable. The whites merely took ad van 
tage of the fact that the negroes could be frightened h 
noise and display, and little more than such demonstration 
were required to insure success. The unfairness <>l OXftf 
gerating the frauds and intimidation lies in that thfl 
methods were initiated by the Republicans. The llepu 
licans introduced the tissue ballot. In the southern coiinl ' 
where the negroes were in the overwhelming innjorll 



the ballot boxes were stuffed by Republican voters, and 
frauds in the counting were numerous. Granting that the 
Democrats were none too scrupulous in their -observance of 
the proprieties and that they did not offer to the world an 
impressive picture of high-minded conduct in the election 
of 1876, it must not be forgotten that their adherence to 
virtuous methods would have been equivalent to uncondi- 
tional surrender. Fraud and intimidation (the latter in 
localities where the whites were few and the negroes were 
emboldened by the presence of the military) had been regu- 
larly resorted to by the Radicals for several years, and, at 
worst, the Democrats opposed them with their own weapons. 
The election machinery, the courts and every department of 
the government being in the hands of the Radicals, the 
Democrats were manifestly powerless to compel a fair elec- 
tion. Even some Southern orators, in their eagerness to 
emphasize the inevitableness of the supremacy of the whites 
in the South, neglect to point out that the Reconstruction 
governments blazed the way for the Democrats to employ 
wrongful expedients and practically compelled it, with the 
alternative of forever turning the left cheek when the right 
was smitten. In the absence of suffrage restrictions at the 
time, the negro voters were in a heavy majority, but in their 
ignorance, and under leadership entirely depraved, they 
were not in the habit of relying upon it, with the result that 
they created the opportunity of the white minority, stronger 
in courage and greater in intelligence, to overcome them 
without violating the rules by which they were themselves 
playing the game. In a spirit of vulgar boastfulness South- 
ern speakers have actually steered sometimes towards the con- 
clusion that there was nothing in the election methods of the 
carpetbaggers and scalawags to excuse the means adopted by 
the Democrats, and that the Democrats must rest their case 
solely on the assertion of the natural right of the superior 
race to rule. The truth of the latter proposition is not 
assailed when it is said that the Democratic campaign of 
1876 in South Carolina would have been amply justified 
without any reference to it and on the ancient ground that 
it is legitimate to fight the devil with fire.